HELEN HAYES MP VOTES AGAINST BREXIT BILL
Dulwich and West Norwood Labour MP Helen Hayes was among more than 40 Labour MPs who voted against the second reading of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill.
Helen Hayes told the House:
My constituents voted overwhelmingly—by more than 75 per cent—to remain in the EU last June.
Across the country, almost half of those who voted, voted to remain in the EU, and a further 27pc of the population did not vote at all. During the campaign, the leave campaign made a series of commitments, on the basis of which many people voted. The most significant was the pledge of an additional £350 million a week for our NHS.
On other issues, however, there was a complete lack of clarity—for example, about whether leaving the EU would mean an end to freedom of movement and retained access to the single market.
The vagueness and undeliverability of those commitments unravelled almost immediately.
The narrow referendum result, on a question that contained no detail about what Brexit would mean and informed by a debate that was full of false promises and inconsistencies, does not provide a mandate to the Government on any terms, within any time scale or at any cost.
There are three things that are important to me as we debate our future relationship with the European Union.
The first is the values that matter to the communities that I represent. Many of my constituents feel a profound sense of distress at the referendum result. They are concerned about the serious practical implications, but they are also concerned about the implications for the values that are important to them. These are values of internationalism, tolerance and diversity; of working closely and collaboratively with countries that share our values and standing up to those who do not; and of celebrating the contribution that people from all over the world make in our communities and our economy. We share so much with the other nations of Europe, yet we see our Prime Minister cut adrift, failing to establish the relationships with other EU leaders that are necessary to secure the best possible outcomes for the UK in the Brexit negotiations.
We see our Prime Minister so desperate to secure trading relationships outside the EU that she has apparently lost any moral compass at all in our relationship with the US.
Let me be clear: the people of Dulwich and West Norwood do not share Donald Trump’s values. We do not believe that the world can be made safer by excluding people based on their religion or nationality. We condemn torture and human rights abuses. We do not believe in abolishing environmental protections or denying climate change. We do not believe in limiting access to healthcare for the most disadvantaged groups; nor do we believe in the denigration of women, disabled people and Muslims, or the appointment of white supremacists to high office or, indeed, any office. Without the European Union, we are left with far fewer close international partners who share our values and we are diminished in many ways as a consequence.
My second concern is about the terms of the proposed exit. A narrowly won referendum does not give the Government a mandate to exit the EU on any terms or within any time scale. It does not give a mandate for a reckless hard Brexit, which will put our economy at risk and which makes no attempt to reconcile the country and build bridges to the 48 pc. The detail matters, and the detail is complex—on the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, which I have asked the Government to confirm several times in this House; on our access to the single market; on the status of the many protections for our environment, workers’ rights, equalities and human rights; and on the implications for science and our universities.
The detail matters, and we have a right to know and to have the opportunity to debate what the Government propose Brexit will look like and what its implications will be. This is a decision that will define our country for a generation. It will directly affect what life is like for our children and grandchildren and for communities across the country. It should be undertaken carefully, rigorously and with attention to every aspect of the detail. We must know what the Government’s negotiating objectives are and have the opportunity to have a say on whether they will deliver a secure, stable and prosperous future for the UK.
Twelve bullet points of a speech, a two-clause Bill and less than a week of debate are completely unacceptable. The Government should be publishing their White Paper ahead of the legislation and should be setting out in detail how they propose to secure a Brexit deal that safeguards the things that matter most to our communities, and we should have the opportunity to debate and vote before an irrevocable step to trigger article 50 is taken.
Finally, the electoral promises made during the referendum campaign matter, and the Government, in acting on the referendum result, must be held to account for delivering them.
My constituents are overwhelmingly opposed to Brexit, but our NHS trust is in crisis, and as a result of decisions made by the coalition Government, my constituents and I want to know how much of the promised additional £350 million a week will be allocated to our services and when the money will be available.
If the Government cannot deliver this additional funding in an open and transparent way, they must be clear with the British people about this broken promise, and the many millions of people who voted on the basis that a vote for leave was a vote for their local NHS services should have the opportunity to have their say again. I cannot vote to give the Government a blank cheque on Brexit, or to allow the Government to pursue Brexit as quickly as possible, no matter what the cost. I cannot vote to trigger article 50 on the basis of a single speech from the Prime Minister. (Sources: WhatDoTheyKnow.com / Hansard 12:39 pm 31st January 2017.)